Philadelphia Phillies: Projecting the starting rotation

It was only a few short years ago that the Philadelphia Phillies looked set at starting pitching.  After all they had the “four aces” in Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, Cole Hamels, Roy Oswalt and Joe Blanton as their fifth starter.  Only two of those pitchers remain on the team after Halladay retired this offseason, Blanton was traded in 2012, and Oswalt was allowed to walk.  The two remaining aces in Hamels and Lee continue to be the dominant pitchers they’re paid to be.  Hamels is the team’s top pitcher, taking the number one spot in the rotation with Lee right behind him at number two.  After these two however, things get a lot less clear.

The most likely candidates after Hamels and Lee to fill the rotation are Kyle Kendrick and Roberto Hernandez, formerly known as Fausto Carmona.

The Phillies have a good idea of what they will get out of Kendrick.  He is versatile, having pitched in the bullpen in 2011 and 2012, but will most likely remain in the rotation.  He can be inconsistent at times, but when he is on Kendrick can give batters trouble.  A season like Kendrick’s first half of last year, when he went 8-6 with a 3.68 ERA could help him to be more than just a back end starter.

Meanwhile Hernandez set career-highs in 2013 in strikeouts per nine innings (6.7) and strikeout-to-walk ratio (2.97), but went 6-13 with a 4.89 ERA in 24 starts and eight relief appearances.  General manager Ruben Amaro called Hernandez “more of a depth guy”.  He added that the 33-year-old “is not someone who is going to slide into the top of the rotation.  But we need some depth.”  There clearly is not a lot of pressure on Hernandez and will he will most likely be the team’s fifth starter with his 4.67 career ERA.

Gonzalez Prepares with a Four-Seam Fastball in Clearwater on October 10. (Steve Nesius/Philly.com)

Gonzalez Prepares with a Four-Seam Fastball in Clearwater on October 10. (Steve Nesius/Philly.com)

The last spot left in the rotation will most likely go to recently acquired Cuban pitcher, Miguel Alfredo González.  González signed a three year deal worth $12 million with the Phillies in late August.  The only problem is that the 27-year-old righty has never pitched in the majors before.  He’s got good size for a pitcher at 6-foot-3 and has many pitches at his disposal.  A few months ago CSNPhilly.com’s Jim Salisbury wrote about González, who was talking to Philadelphia reporters for the first time, and one highlight stood out from the session:

“I have several pitches,” he said.  “Fastball, curveball, changeup, cutter, splitter.”

He paused.

“Knuckleball.  Sinker.”

Knuckleball?

“Si.”

That’s more than several.

It is clear to the Phillies’ scouts that González has a high ceiling and was worth the risk they took in signing him.  If he is able overcome his recent injuries issues he should be able to reach that ceiling, then this risky move will result in a big payoff for the Phillies.  At that point González would most likely become the team’s third starter.  However González will most likely have a rotation spot regardless, apart from a very poor spring training, due to how much he is going to be paid.  The third rotation spot is his to lose.

There are some other possible candidates who could challenge for the final spot in the rotation.  Johnathan Pettibone and Ethan Martin both made starts for the Phillies last season, with Pettibone starting 18 games to Martin’s 8.  Pettibone’s experience could help him to earn the last spot with a good spring training, most likely overtaking Kendrick or Hernandez.

In the end this is how I believe the starting rotation will pan out:

  1. Cole Hamels
  2. Cliff Lee
  3. Miguel Alfredo González
  4. Kyle Kendrick
  5. Fausto Car Roberto Hernandez

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